By John Salak –
Mental health issues aren’t just serious; they are just about everywhere. A recent global study underscored the point by announcing that 50 percent of the world’s population will develop a mental health disorder during their lifetime.
Led by researchers from The University of Queensland (QU) and Harvard Medical School, the study analyzed data from more than 150,000 adults across 29 countries between 2001 and 2022 and discovered the frighteningly high percentage of people who are impacted by at least one mental health issue by the time they reach 75.
“The most common were mood disorders such as major depression or anxiety,” noted Professor John McGrath from UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute. “We also found the risk of certain mental disorders differed by sex.”
The three most common mental health disorders for women are depression, specific phobia, a disabling anxiety that interferes with daily life, and post-traumatic stress (PTSD).
Men suffered similar challenges, with their most common mental health issues being alcohol abuse, depression and specific phobia.
The global-wide study also found mental health disorders typically first emerge in childhood, adolescence or young adulthood.
“The peak age of first onset was at 15 years old, with a median age of onset of 19 for men and 20 for women,” McGrath said. “This lends weight to the need to invest in basic neuroscience to understand why these disorders develop.”
These findings align with other research that shows the rising impact of mental health issues among younger people. At least one in five young people aged 9–17 years old currently has a diagnosable mental health disorder that causes some degree of impairment, according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. One in 10 of these individuals has a disorder causing significant impairment.
The group also noted the most common mental illnesses in adolescents are anxiety, mood, attention and behavior disorders while warning that suicide is the second leading cause of death in young people aged 15–24 years.
The results from the recent global study show the need to invest in mental health services focused on young people, added study co-leader Professor Ronald Kessler from Harvard Medical School.
“Services need to be able to detect and treat common mental disorders promptly and be optimized to suit patients in these critical parts of their lives,” he explained. “By understanding the age at which these disorders commonly arise, we can tailor public health interventions and allocate resources to ensure that appropriate and timely support is available to individuals at risk.”